|Messages By Ovid Need|
Covenant, # 2 - Jeremiah 31:31-33
As we looked at the covenant last time, we looked at the agreement made between the Father and the Son. This agreement was made before the foundation of the world and is called the covenant of redemption.
This agreement consisted of the Son agreeing to leave His exalted place in glory, be born of a woman, endure all the infirmities of man kind, being made under the law, agreeing to keep the law perfectly, become a curse for us, offering Himself as the sacrifice for the sins of His people. This involved all His life work, His suffering and death and resurrection.
If the Son would do this, the Father agreed to prepare Him a body after the form of Adam, yet without spot or blemish. The Father would give to the Son the Spirit without measure to equip Him with the grace and strength to keep His side of the covenant. The Father would be at His right hand at all times for support and comfort, and would bruise Satan under His feet. The Father would deliver the Son from the power of death, exalting Him to His own right hand over all of creation and give Him a name which is above every name. The Son, as head of the Church, would now have the Holy Spirit to send to whom He will, to renew their hearts, to comfort and to qualify them for His service and kingdom. All those given to the Son by the Father would be kept safe by the Father so that none would be lost. There would be a multitude which no man could number, made partakers of His redemption, and that ultimately the Son's kingdom would cover all the earth, all nations would be included within His kingdom. Then finally, through the redemptive work of Christ in the Church, all powers would see the divine wisdom of God throughout all eternity, as was planed from eternity past, Eph.3:11.
This is called the covenant of redemption which was made between the Father and the Son.
Now, to look at the second part of the covenant and our text.
This covenant mentioned in v. 32, cannot refer to a formal agreement made when the Lord took Israel by the hand and led them out of Egypt, because there was none made yet. The formal agreement was not made until they reached Mount Sinai and the law of the covenant formally given, Ex 34:28.
Exodus 6:4, 5, tells us that God had already established His covenant with the people, even before Moses went to them. As we saw last time, it was established in Abraham, Noah and Adam.
Ez. 16:8 tells us that the Lord established His covenant with His people while they were still polluted in their own blood (will look at this later).
In other words, this covenant made with His people, was made apart from an agreement on their part. The formal agreement to the covenant at Sinai was only the outward expression of a relationship that was already in existence. It only fixed or settled what already existed.
The question might arise: "How can this be?" How can they be accountable to something which they didn't yet agree to?
We who are parents should understand this very well. When our children are born into our family, they are expected to follow the already established rules and laws of our family, whether they agree to them or not. We could carry this further. If we were to adopt a child, whether that child agrees or not to the adoption, they would be expected to follow the
Furthermore, every benefit man may receive from God, places upon him an obligation to God, whether that obligation is expressed by God or not, or the individual outwardly expressed an agreement to it or not.
In other words, the rain from heaven, the sunshine given for crops places the farmer and every one who eats, under obligation to God. The air we breath, the water to drink, places all mankind under obligation to God, whether they have agreed to that obligation or not. Isa 24;1 & 26:21, God is going to hold the whole earth responsible for keeping His covenant.
When God gave the commandments to His people at the Mount in Ex. 20, they were already obliged to obey them, whether they agreed to the law of the covenant or not. In fact, it would have been a breach of the covenant for them not to agree to the commandments. The agreement is found in Ex 24:7.
(Ex 18:20 contains an interesting statement. And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do. This statement was made before the law was given in Ex 20, showing us that the covenant and its law was known and was in effect well before the actual giving of the law.)
Why would it have been a breach of the covenant for them not to agree to the commandments? This right for God to require faithfulness to the covenant was based in His redemption of His people.
In other words, God redeemed them from Egypt. This placed them under the obligation to obey the One who redeemed them, whether they ever agreed to obey or not. The application is obvious. Every one who has been born is obliged to obey God, whether they are saved or not. Then those who have been born again, redeemed by the blood of Christ, are under a double obligation.
This is what Heb 10:26-31 says:
Illustration: There is a bigger slave marked today than ever before in the history of the world. People are stolen to sell for spare parts, (the hospitals don't inquire into where the parts come from), for immoral purposes, for labour, for every purpose we can imagine and some we cannot. And Kuwait is one of the biggest markets.
Let's suppose that ____________________ was born to parents who willingly sold them into slavery before they were old enough to even know anything about it. They grew up knowing nothing but slavery. The person goes on the slave market again, and I happened to be in the right place at the right time and I was able to buy them. Now, that purchase would oblige that person to obey me, as long as my wishes did not run contrary to the word of God.
This is what the Lord uses as an illustration in Ez. 16:8-14, Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine. Then washed I thee with water; yea, I throughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil. I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers' skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk. I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck. And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head. Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom. And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord GOD.
Here the Lord tells His people that He rescued them from total annihilation, therefore, they are obliged to remain true to Him. But, this applies to everyone. Lam. 3:22, It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
The acknowledgement of the terms of the covenant by the redeemed, under both testaments is of secondary importance. The important thing is that the Lord redeemed us, thereby placing us under obligation to the law of the covenant. To ignore this obligation, is to break the covenant and inherit the results.
And at this point we need to mention that baptism is the public agreement that we will obey the law of the covenant. Notice the words spoken at baptism: Q. "Have you received the Lord Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour?" Then we baptize "Upon your public profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.."
Baptism is the public identification with the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the public proclamation that we have been brought into the covenant made with Abraham. It is a public agreement to abide by the law of the covenant. Baptism agrees to the blessings and curses of obedience to that covenant, as found in Deut. 28-32.
But, as we saw, every person in the world is under this obligation at birth. We are under a double obligation as the new birth. Baptism is the public affirmation that we will abide by the law of the covenant, and that we agree to its promised curses and blessings. It is the public affirmation similar to what Israel made at the mount after the giving of the covenant-law.
Bringing us to two points.
First, there are not two covenants. The one made with Abraham spoke of Christ. Christ did not usher in a new covenant, rather He came in fulfillment of the first which was made with Adam, Noah and then Abraham.
"Then," you ask, "what did Christ do?" Rom. 15:8-12, Christ enlarged the covenant to include the Gentile nations, although there times in the old, that they were included, i.e. Jonah and Ninevah.
Second, the covenant was made with the seed of Abraham (which, according to Paul was Christ) long before they were born. This also means that His people were placed under the obligation of keeping His covenant even before they were born. And whether they willingly agree to keep it or not, the are obliged to do so because of their redemption. If they do not remain faithful, they have violated it, and have not followed the will of God.
As we saw in Romans 15:8, even though we personally did not agree to the terms of the covenant, the terms were established with the father of our faith, Abraham, and we are brought into those terms by faith.
Back to Jeremiah 31:32.
What did the Lord mean in this contrast between the Old Covenant and the New?
It cannot mean a more perfect revelation of the Law of God, it is the same for both covenants. Not one jot or tittle can change between the two. God's law is based on His nature; eternal and unchangeable, Mal. 3:6 & 4:4.
So what is the difference?
There are several, a couple of which are here in the context, Jer. 31:33.
The old had to do primarily with the external nature, physical blessings. While the new primarily has to do with the spiritual, inner, the forgiveness of sin, the writing of the Law on the heart, 32:39, 40. We say primarily, because one cannot read the Psalms (esp. 119) without seeing that there was also this love for and desire toward the law under the old covenant.
Loving concern by the Lord toward His people under the old covenant is evident, Heb. 8:6-13. Here the phrase, took them by the hand, v. 9, indicates loving tenderness. Yet because of sin and hardness of heart, the old covenant under the Law of Moses to the nation of Israel was insufficient. It takes the grace of God to accomplish God's will and purpose. And grace came by Jesus Christ.
This gives us a second difference:
The old dealt primarily with the physical nation of the covenant, Israel. The New, deals primarily with the spiritual nation of Israel, the church. The hardness of the physical nation led to many problems when connected with the outward blessings of the covenant. This is also seen in Ezek. 16:15 on. The material prosperity led them away from God. Notice Heb.8:13. The people who Hebrews was written to were standing right on the threshold of the passing away of the old covenant with this rebellious nation.
A point in passing is that the covenant-law did not pass away, the nation passed away. The covenant-law, with its blessings and curses, is still in effect.
The better covenant was required, a covenant which emphasized the inward man, a covenant which had added mercy and grace in it, Rom. 5:20, 21.
A third difference:
The old covenant was made with the Hebrew nation, and Moses acted as the mediator. (Notice that modern day Israel does not claim to be a Hebrew nation.) The Hebrew nation had the blood of bulls and goats for a covering of sin. This blood could not free the conscience of dead works, nor remove sin.
The new covenant between God and His people, has Christ as the Mediator. His blood alone can free the conscience and remove sin. It is a better covenant, founded upon better promises; promises which contain the forgiveness and forgetting of sin and renewed fellowship with the Father. The old covenant could not undo what Adam did. The new covenant, which is Christ, does just that, Isa. 43:6; 49:8.
A forth difference:
John 1:17, as complete as was the law that was given to Moses, grace and truth came by Jesus Christ, the new covenant. The increased love for God, the new and deeper inner attitude for His law, the true application of what was already given under the old covenant, came in Him.
Thus, there was little or no mercy under the old covenant. Heb. 10:28, tells us that a person was put to death at the mouth of two or three witnesses. Under the new, death is not as quick and sure, although the guilty are still guilty and worthy of death, Rom. 1:32. Under the new, there is abundant opportunity for repentance and return to the Lord, Rom. 2:4. Sad to say, fallen man is pron to take advantage of this long-suffering of God. The blessings of the old, though great and rich, fall into insignificance in comparison to which is ours under Christ, our new covenant.
Thus, in the coming of the new covenant, it is not absolutely new, but only a completion only of the old which was started in the Garden, re-given to Noah, confirmed and further defined in Moses, and completed in Christ, Heb. 8:6.
A fifth difference:
The law written on the heart is the nature of God written on the heart. It is God now living in the believer, because the law of God is the nature of God. This indwelling nature now makes the believer a new creation, with new desires centering in pleasing God, and the power of God to fulfill those desires.
All people are borne into this covenant with God. But, of course, the unsaved man has very little if any desire to keep this covenant. Upon being born again, we are placed within this covenant, given a new desire to obey it, and the same Spirit of God which Christ had while here is given to us to enable us to obey it. When we were baptized, we publicly proclaimed to every one that we agreed to obey that covenant-law, and agreed with its blessings and curses.
This means that every relationship with God (and man?) is covenantual in aspect. Every relationship with God is based upon a promise suspended upon a condition.
A few weeks ago, when the Lord was dealing with Jessica's heart, I reminded her that salvation is a covenant relationship with God. It involves an agreement to obey and please Him according to His revealed word.
The Spirit deals with our heart to bring us to Christ into this covenant. This covenant involves an agreement on our part to live according to the law of the covenant. This involves an agreement that if we do not abide by the terms of the covenant, we will receive the curse of God (as Christians. 1 Cor. 5 is an example of this), and if we do abide by the terms of the covenant, we will inherit the blessings of God.
We are not expected to keep our side of the covenant in our own strength. We have been given the Holy Spirit and His power and ability to do what is pleasing in His sight. In addition, provision has been made for unintentional failure, 1 John 1:9, Pro. 28:13, 14.
Intentional failure is presumption, which places us in the realm of the wicked one for our chastisement, He. 10. Presumption seeks to claim the blessings of God without the obedience to His revealed word. Presumption seeks God's blessings apart from doing what we know we should be doing for God. Such action is violation of the covenant. As the people of Israel found out when they tried to go on into Canaan, such presumptive action has the cures of God against it, not His blessing.
Every person who has breath is obliged to obey God.
This is doubly true of the redeemed.
Have we been faithful to our side of the responsibility?
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